“The Surprisingly Sustainable Case for Coal”
Peabody President and Chief Executive Officer
Amid a fuel that is so often miscast as a Hollywood villain, I’d like to briefly lay out what I would call the
surprisingly sustainable case for coal… with three key observations.
First Observation: The story of global energy is not one of good versus evil. It is a tale of the pursuit of
two “goods” – affordable, reliable energy and reduced emissions. Maximizing the benefits while
minimizing the costs are what so many of us are about every single day.
First, the basics: The world uses some 8 billion tons of coal per year.
1 A bit more than one out of every
four units of energy in the world comes from coal – and the International Energy Agency (IEA) has noted
that this share has actually edged up in the past four decades – and off of a much larger base.
For the first time ever in 2018, global coal-fueled generating capacity topped 2,000 gigawatts (GW).
That’s a massive 62% increase since the year 20003… and each GW can use about 3 million tons of coal
per year. Some 300 GW of new coal-fueled generation is under construction in Asia alone – more than
the entire existing U.S. coal fleet.4
More than 40 nations have added coal-fueled generation since 2010.5
Within the U.S., past years of regulatory burden, financial incentives to switch fuels, and a countryspecific shale play have created a secular decline, but coal still fuels over a quarter of electricity
During the peak day of the recent polar vortex, coal fueled 37% of electricity – more than
any other source.